Business is booming for Maine hot sauce makers during nationwide Sriracha shortage

Billi Barker wasn’t sure why there had been a bit of an uptick of interest in her specialty hot sauces.

Then she heard about the nationwide Sriracha shortage.

Barker had a bumper crop last year of the organic hot peppers she grows on her Fire Fly Farm in St. Albans. She has four cases of her Sriracha sauce on hand and enough peppers to make four more.

“I was recently approached by someone wondering how much I can make to supply one of his customers,” Barker said. “I guess I better start bringing it to the farmers markets.”

Bangor area supermarkets are reporting empty shelves where the California-produced Sriracha with the rooster stamp and green cap is normally found. As summer wears on, it could get harder to find the hot sauce on the shelves. Instead, those looking for an extra kick. may have to turn to local purveyors or experiment with homemade recipes.

The reason behind the shrinking supply are severe weather conditions affecting the quality of the chili peppers used to make the sauce at the Irwindale, California, plant, where Huy Fong Foods, Inc. uses roughly 50,000 pounds of the peppers annually.

Ongoing drought conditions in the parts of Mexico where Huy Fong Foods sources its chiles have drastically reduced the quality and quantity of the hybrid red jalapeno peppers. In an April email to its customers, Huy Fong Foods said that, without the essential ingredient, it would be unable to produce any of its products including Sriracha hot chili sauce, chili garlic sauce and Sambal Oelek sauce.

The company also said it’s not accepting any new orders and orders placed after April would not be filled until September.

A pile of red peppers that are used for Sriracha sauce.
Billi Barker uses a variety of her own organically grown red peppers in her homemade Sriracha sauces. Credit: Courtesy of Billi Barker.

That’s bad news for lovers of the thick, spicy sauce that is used for everything from wings to dips.

Barker, who is known as the “condiment queen” to her friends, understands why people may be a bit anxious about a Sriracha-less summer in Maine.

“It’s so versatile, and a little bit goes a long way in adding heat and flavor,” she said. “If something is missing from your dish, just add a drop or two of Sriracha.”

Barker sells her sauce at farmers markets in Belfast, Orono and Bangor. In addition to the peppers, she grows the garlic and raises the bees for the honey used in her sauce